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ZECHARIAH i. 7—vi.

The Visions of Zechariah do not lack those large and simple views of religion which we have just seen to be the charm of his other prophecies. Indeed it is among the Visions that we find the most spiritual of all his utterances:[777] Not by might, and not by force, but by My Spirit, saith Jehovah of Hosts. The Visions express the need of the Divine forgiveness, emphasise the reality of sin, as a principle deeper than the civic crimes in which it is manifested, and declare the power of God to banish it from His people. The Visions also contain the remarkable prospect of Jerusalem as the City of Peace, her only wall the Lord Himself.[778] The overthrow of the heathen empires is predicted by the Lord’s own hand, and from all the Visions there are absent both the turmoil and the glory of war.

We must also be struck by the absence of another element, which is a cause of complexity in the writings of many prophets—the polemic against idolatry. Zechariah nowhere mentions the idols. We have already seen what proof this silence bears for the fact that the community to which he spoke was not that 274 half-heathen remnant of Israel which had remained in the land, but was composed of worshippers of Jehovah who at His word had returned from Babylon.[779] Here we have only to do with the bearing of the fact upon Zechariah’s style. That bewildering confusion of the heathen pantheon and its rites, which forms so much of our difficulty in interpreting some of the prophecies of Ezekiel and the closing chapters of the Book of Isaiah, is not to blame for any of the complexity of Zechariah’s Visions.

Nor can we attribute the latter to the fact that the Visions are dreams, and therefore bound to be more involved and obscure than the words of Jehovah which came to Zechariah in the open daylight of his people’s public life. In chaps. i. 7—vi. we have not the narrative of actual dreams, but a series of conscious and artistic allegories—the deliberate translation into a carefully constructed symbolism of the Divine truths with which the prophet was entrusted by his God. Yet this only increases our problem—why a man with such gifts of direct speech, and such clear views of his people’s character and history, should choose to express the latter by an imagery so artificial and involved? In his orations Zechariah is very like the prophets whom we have known before the Exile, thoroughly ethical and intent upon the public conscience of his time. He appreciates what they were, feels himself standing in their succession, and is endowed both with their spirit and their style. But none of them constructs the elaborate allegories which he does, or insists upon the religious symbolism which he enforces 275 as indispensable to the standing of Israel with God. Not only are their visions few and simple, but they look down upon the visionary temper as a rude stage of prophecy and inferior to their own, in which the Word of God is received by personal communion with Himself, and conveyed to His people by straight and plain words. Some of the earlier prophets even condemn all priesthood and ritual; none of them regards these as indispensable to Israel’s right relations with Jehovah; and none employs those superhuman mediators of the Divine truth, by whom Zechariah is instructed in his Visions.


The explanation of this change that has come over prophecy must be sought for in certain habits which the people formed in exile. During the Exile several causes conspired to develop among Hebrew writers the tempers both of symbolism and apocalypse. The chief of these was their separation from the realities of civic life, with the opportunity their political leisure afforded them of brooding and dreaming. Facts and Divine promises, which had previously to be dealt with by the conscience of the moment, were left to be worked out by the imagination. The exiles were not responsible citizens or statesmen, but dreamers. They were inspired by mighty hopes for the future, and not fettered by the practical necessities of a definite historical situation upon which these hopes had to be immediately realised. They had a far-off horizon to build upon, and they occupied the whole breadth of it. They had a long time to build, and they elaborated the minutest details of their architecture. Consequently their construction of the future of Israel, and their description of the processes by which it was to be 276 reached, became colossal, ornate and lavishly symbolic. Nor could the exiles fail to receive stimulus for all this from the rich imagery of Babylonian art by which they were surrounded.

Under these influences there were three strong developments in Israel. One was that development of Apocalypse the first beginnings of which we traced in Zephaniah—the representation of God’s providence of the world and of His people, not by the ordinary political and military processes of history, but by awful convulsions and catastrophes, both in nature and in politics, in which God Himself appeared, either alone in sudden glory or by the mediation of heavenly armies. The second—and it was but a part of the first—was the development of a belief in Angels: superhuman beings who had not only a part to play in the apocalyptic wars and revolutions; but, in the growing sense, which characterises the period, of God’s distance and awfulness, were believed to act as His agents in the communication of His Word to men. And, thirdly, there was the development of the Ritual. To some minds this may appear the strangest of all the effects of the Exile. The fall of the Temple, its hierarchy and sacrifices, might be supposed to enforce more spiritual conceptions of God and of His communion with His people. And no doubt it did. The impossibility of the legal sacrifices in exile opened the mind of Israel to the belief that God was satisfied with the sacrifices of the broken heart, and drew near, without mediation, to all who were humble and pure of heart. But no one in Israel therefore understood that these sacrifices were for ever abolished. Their interruption was regarded as merely temporary even by the most 277 spiritual of Jewish writers. The Fifty-First Psalm, for instance, which declares that the sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O Lord, Thou wilt not despise, immediately follows this declaration by the assurance that when God builds again the walls of Jerusalem, He will once more take delight in the legal sacrifices: burnt offering and whole burnt offering, the oblation of bullocks upon Thine altar.[780] For men of such views the ruin of the Temple was not its abolition with the whole dispensation which it represented, but rather the occasion for its reconstruction upon wider lines and a more detailed system, for the planning of which the nation’s exile afforded the leisure and the carefulness of art described above. The ancient liturgy, too, was insufficient for the stronger convictions of guilt and need of purgation, which sore punishment had impressed upon the people. Then, scattered among the heathen as they were, they learned to require stricter laws and more drastic ceremonies to restore and preserve their holiness. Their ritual, therefore, had to be expanded and detailed to a degree far beyond what we find in Israel’s earlier systems of worship. With the fall of the monarchy and the absence of civic life the importance of the priesthood was proportionately enhanced; and the growing sense of God’s aloofness from the world, already alluded to, made the more indispensable human, as well as superhuman, mediators between Himself and His people. Consider these things, and it will be clear why prophecy, which with Amos had begun a war against all ritual, and with Jeremiah had achieved a religion absolutely independent of priesthood and Temple, should reappear 278 after the Exile, insistent upon the building of the Temple, enforcing the need both of priesthood and sacrifice, and while it proclaimed the Messianic King and the High Priest as the great feeders of the national life and worship, finding no place beside them for the Prophet himself.[781]

The force of these developments of Apocalypse, Angelology and the Ritual appears both in Ezekiel and in the exilic codification of the ritual which forms so large a part of the Pentateuch. Ezekiel carries Apocalypse far beyond the beginnings started by Zephaniah. He introduces, though not under the name of angels, superhuman mediators between himself and God. The Priestly Code does not mention angels, and has no Apocalypse; but like Ezekiel it develops, to an extraordinary degree, the ritual of Israel. Both its author and Ezekiel base on the older forms, but build as men who are not confined by the lines of an actually existing system. The changes they make, the innovations they introduce, are too numerous to mention here. To illustrate their influence upon Zechariah, it is enough to emphasise the large place they give in the ritual to the processes of propitiation and cleansing from sin, and the increased authority with which they invest the priesthood. In Ezekiel Israel has still a Prince, though he is not called King. He arranges the cultus,[782] and sacrifices are offered for him and the people,[783] but the priests teach and judge the people.[784] In the Priestly Code[785] the priesthood is more rigorously fenced than by Ezekiel from the laity, 279 and more regularly graded. At its head appears a High Priest (as he does not in Ezekiel), and by his side the civil rulers are portrayed in lesser dignity and power. Sacrifices are made, no longer as with Ezekiel for Prince and People, but for Aaron and the Congregation; and throughout the narrative of ancient history, into the form of which this Code projects its legislation, the High Priest stands above the captain of the host, even when the latter is Joshua himself. God’s enemies are defeated not so much by the wisdom and valour of the secular powers, as by the miracles of Jehovah Himself, mediated through the priesthood. Ezekiel and the Priestly Code both elaborate the sacrifices of atonement and sanctification beyond all the earlier uses.


It was beneath these influences that Zechariah grew up, and to them we may trace, not only numerous details of his Visions, but the whole of their involved symbolism. He was himself a priest and the son of a priest, born and bred in the very order to which we owe the codification of the ritual, and the development of those ideas of guilt and uncleanness that led to its expansion and specialisation. The Visions in which he deals with these are the Third to the Seventh. As with Haggai there is a High Priest, in advance upon Ezekiel and in agreement with the Priestly Code. As in the latter the High Priest represents the people, and carries their guilt before God.[786] He and his colleagues are pledges and portents of the coming Messiah. But the civil power is not yet diminished 280 before the sacerdotal, as in the Priestly Code. We shall find indeed that a remarkable attempt has been made to alter the original text of a prophecy appended to the Visions,[787] in order to divert to the High Priest the coronation and Messianic rank there described. But any one who reads the passage carefully can see for himself that the crown (a single crown, as the verb which it governs proves[788]) which Zechariah was ordered to make was designed for Another than the priest, that the priest was but to stand at this Other’s right hand, and that there was to be concord between the two of them. This Other can only have been the Messianic King, Zerubbabel, as was already proclaimed by Haggai.[789] The altered text is due to a later period, when the High Priest became the civil as well as the religious head of the community. To Zechariah he was still only the right hand of the monarch in government; but, as we have seen, the religious life of the people was already gathered up and concentrated in him. It is the priests, too, who by their perpetual service and holy life bring on the Messianic era.[790] Men come to the Temple to propitiate Jehovah, for which Zechariah uses the anthropomorphic expression to make smooth or placid His face.[791] No more than this is made of the sacrificial system, which was not in full course when the Visions were announced. But the symbolism of the Fourth Vision is drawn from the furniture of the Temple. It is interesting that the great candelabrum seen by the prophet should be like, not 281 the ten lights of the old Temple of Solomon, but the seven-branched candlestick described in the Priestly Code. In the Sixth and Seventh Visions, the strong convictions of guilt and uncleanness, which were engendered in Israel by the Exile, are not removed by the sacrificial means enforced in the Priestly Code, but by symbolic processes in the style of the visions of Ezekiel.

The Visions in which Zechariah treats of the outer history of the world are the first two and the last, and in these we notice the influence of the Apocalypse developed during the Exile. In Zechariah’s day Israel had no stage for their history save the site of Jerusalem and its immediate neighbourhood. So long as he keeps to this Zechariah is as practical and matter-of-fact as any of the prophets, but when he has to go beyond it to describe the general overthrow of the heathen, he is unable to project that, as Amos or Isaiah did, in terms of historic battle, and has to call in the apocalyptic. A people such as that poor colony of exiles, with no issue upon history, is forced to take refuge in Apocalypse, and carries with it even those of its prophets whose conscience, like Zechariah’s, is most strongly bent upon the practical present. Consequently these three historical Visions are the most vague of the eight. They reveal the whole earth under the care of Jehovah and the patrol of His angels. They definitely predict the overthrow of the heathen empires. But, unlike Amos or Isaiah, the prophet does not see by what political movements this is to be effected. The world is still quiet and at peace.[792] The time is hidden in the Divine counsels; the means, though clearly symbolised in four smiths who come forward to smite the horns of the heathen,[793] and in a chariot which carries God’s wrath 282 to the North,[794] are obscure. The prophet appears to have intended, not any definite individuals or political movements of the immediate future, but God’s own supernatural forces. In other words, the Smiths and Chariots are not an allegory of history, but powers apocalyptic. The forms of the symbols were derived by Zechariah from different sources. Perhaps that of the smiths who destroy the horns in the Second Vision was suggested by the smiths of destruction threatened upon Ammon by Ezekiel.[795] In the horsemen of the First Vision and the chariots of the Eighth, Ewald sees a reflection of the couriers and posts which Darius organised throughout the empire; they are more probably, as we shall see, a reflection of the military bands and patrols of the Persians. But from whatever quarter Zechariah derived the exact aspect of these Divine messengers, he found many precedents for them in the native beliefs of Israel. They are, in short, angels, incarnate as Hebrew angels always were, and in fashion like men. But this brings up the whole subject of the angels, whom he also sees employed as the mediators of God’s Word to him; and that is large enough to be left to a chapter by itself.[796]

We have now before us all the influences which led Zechariah to the main form and chief features of his Visions.


For all the Visions there is one date, in the twenty-fourth day of the eleventh month, the month Shebat, in the second 283 year of Darius, that is January or February 519; and one Divine impulse, the Word of Jehovah came to the prophet Zekharyah, son of Berekhyahu, son of Iddo, as follows.


The seventy years which Jeremiah had fixed for the duration of the Babylonian servitude were drawing to a close. Four months had elapsed since Haggai promised that in a little while God would shake all nations.[797] But the world was not shaken: there was no political movement which promised to restore her glory to Jerusalem. A very natural disappointment must have been the result among the Jews. In this situation of affairs the Word came to Zechariah, and both situation and Word he expressed by his First Vision.

It was one of the myrtle-covered glens in the neighbourhood of Jerusalem:[798] Zechariah calls it the Glen or Valley-Bottom, either because it was known under that name to the Jews, or because he was himself wont to frequent it for prayer. He discovers in it what seems to be a rendezvous of Persian cavalry-scouts,[799] the leader of the troop in front, and the rest behind him, having just come in with their reports. Soon, however, he is made aware that they are angels, and with that quick, dissolving change both of function 284 and figure, which marks all angelic apparitions,[800] they explain to him their mission. Now it is an angel-interpreter at his side who speaks, and now the angel on the front horse. They are scouts of God come in from their survey of the whole earth. The world lies quiet. Whereupon the angel of Jehovah asks Him how long His anger must rest on Jerusalem and nothing be done to restore her; and the prophet hears a kind and comforting answer. The nations have done more evil to Israel than God empowered them to do. Their aggravations have changed His wrath against her to pity, and in pity He is come back to her. She shall soon be rebuilt and overflow with prosperity.

The only perplexity in all this is the angels’ report that the whole earth lies quiet. How this could have been in 519 is difficult to understand. The great revolts against Darius were then in active progress, the result was uncertain and he took at least three more years to put them all down. They were confined, it is true, to the east and north-east of the empire, but some of them threatened Babylon, and we can hardly ascribe the report of the angels to such a limitation of the Jews’ horizon at this time as shut out Mesopotamia or the lands to the north of her. There remain two alternatives. Either these far-away revolts made only more impressive the stagnancy of the tribes of the rest of the empire, and the helplessness of the Jews and their Syrian neighbours was convincingly shown by their inability to take advantage even of the desperate straits to which Darius was reduced; or else in that month of vision Darius had quelled one of the rebellions against him, and for the moment there was quiet in the world.

285By night I had a vision, and behold! a man riding a brown horse,[801] and he was standing between the myrtles that are in the Glen;[802] and behind him horses brown, bay[803] and white. And I said, What are these, my lord? And the angel who talked with me said, I will show you what these are. And the man who was standing among the myrtles answered and said, These are they whom Jehovah hath sent to go to and fro through the earth. And they answered the angel of Jehovah who stood among the myrtles,[804] and said, We have gone up and down through the earth, and lo! the whole earth is still and at peace.[805] And the angel of Jehovah answered and said, Jehovah of Hosts, how long hast Thou no pity for Jerusalem and the cities of Judah, with which[806] Thou hast been wroth these seventy years? And Jehovah answered the angel who talked with me,[807] kind words and comforting. And the angel who talked with me said to me, Proclaim now as follows: Thus saith Jehovah of Hosts, I am zealous for Jerusalem and for Zion, with a great zeal; but with great wrath am I wroth against the arrogant Gentiles. For I was but a little angry with Israel, but 286 they aggravated the evil.[808] Therefore thus saith Jehovah, I am returned to Jerusalem with mercies. My house shall be built in her—oracle of Jehovah of Hosts—and the measuring line shall be drawn over Jerusalem. Proclaim yet again, saying: Thus saith Jehovah of Hosts, My cities shall yet overflow with prosperity, and Jehovah shall again comfort Zion, and again make choice of Jerusalem.

Two things are to be noted in this oracle. No political movement is indicated as the means of Jerusalem’s restoration: this is to be the effect of God’s free grace in returning to dwell in Jerusalem, which is the reward of the building of the Temple. And there is an interesting explanation of the motive for God’s new grace: in executing His sentence upon Israel, the heathen had far exceeded their commission, and now themselves deserved punishment. That is to say, the restoration of Jerusalem and the resumption of the worship are not enough for the future of Israel. The heathen must be chastised. But Zechariah does not predict any overthrow of the world’s power, either by earthly or by heavenly forces. This is entirely in harmony with the insistence upon peace which distinguishes him from other prophets.


FOUR SMITHS (ii. 1–4 Heb., i. 18–21 Eng.).

The Second Vision supplies what is lacking in the First, the destruction of the tyrants who have oppressed Israel. The prophet sees four horns, which, he is told by his interpreting angel, are the powers that have scattered Judah. The many attempts to identify these with four heathen nations are ingenious but futile.

287Four horns were seen as representing the totality of Israel’s enemies—her enemies from all quarters.”[809] And to destroy these horns four smiths appear. Because in the Vision the horns are of iron, in Israel an old symbol of power, the first verb used of the action can hardly be, as in the Hebrew text, to terrify. The Greek reads sharpen, and probably some verb meaning to cut or chisel stood in the original.[810]

And I lifted mine eyes and looked, and lo! four horns. And I said to the angel who spoke with me, What are these? And he said to me, These are the horns which have scattered Judah, Israel and Jerusalem.[811] And Jehovah showed me four smiths. And I said, What are these coming to do? And He spake, saying, These are the horns which scattered Judah, so that none lifted up his head;[812] and these are come to ...[813] them, to strike down the horns of the nations, that lifted the horn against the land of Judah to scatter it.


(ii. 5–9 Heb., ii. 1–5 Eng.).

Like the Second Vision, the Third follows from the First, another, but a still more significant, supplement. 288 The First had promised the rebuilding of Jerusalem, and now the prophet beholds a young man—by this term he probably means a servant or apprentice—who is attempting to define the limits of the new city. In the light of what this attempt encounters, there can be little doubt that the prophet means to symbolise by it the intention of building the walls upon the old lines, so as to make Jerusalem again the mountain fortress she had previously been. Some have considered that the young man goes forth only to see, or to show, the extent of the city in the approaching future. But if this had been his motive, there would have been no reason in interrupting him with other orders. The point is, that he has narrow ideas of what the city should be, and is prepared to define it upon its old lines of a fortress. For the interpreting angel who comes forward[814] is told by another angel to run and tell the young man that in the future Jerusalem shall be a large unwalled town, and this, not only because of the multitude of its population, for even then it might still have been fortified like Niniveh, but because Jehovah Himself shall be its wall. The young man is prevented, not merely from making it small, but from making it a citadel. And this is in conformity with all the singular absence of war from Zechariah’s Visions, both of the future deliverance of Jehovah’s people and of their future duties before Him. It is indeed remarkable how Zechariah not only develops none of the warlike elements of earlier Messianic prophecies, but tells us here of how God Himself actually prevented their repetition, and insists again and again only on those elements of ancient prediction which had 289 filled the future of Israel with peace.

And I lifted mine eyes and looked, and lo! a man with a measuring rope in his hand. So I said, Whither art thou going? And he said to me, To measure Jerusalem: to see how much its breadth and how much its length should be. And lo! the angel who talked with me came forward,[815] and another angel came forward to meet him. And he said to him, Run and speak to yonder young man thus: Like a number of open villages shall Jerusalem remain, because of the multitude of men and cattle in the midst of her. And I Myself will be to her—oracle of Jehovah—a wall of fire round about, and for glory will I be in her midst.

In this Vision Zechariah gives us, with his prophecy, a lesson in the interpretation of prophecy. His contemporaries believed God’s promise to rebuild Jerusalem, but they defined its limits by the conditions of an older and a narrower day. They brought forth their measuring rods, to measure the future by the sacred attainments of the past. Such literal fulfilment of His Word God prevented by that ministry of angels which Zechariah beheld. He would not be bound by those forms which His Word had assumed in suitableness to the needs of ruder generations. The ideal of many of the returned exiles must have been that frowning citadel, those gates of everlastingness,[816] which some of them celebrated in Psalms, and from which the hosts of Sennacherib had been broken and swept back as the angry sea is swept from the fixed line of Canaan’s coast.[817] What had been enough for David and Isaiah was enough for them, especially as so many prophets of the 290 Lord had foretold a Messianic Jerusalem that should be a counterpart of the historical. But God breaks the letter of His Word to give its spirit a more glorious fulfilment. Jerusalem shall not be builded as a city that is compact together,[818] but open and spread abroad village-wise upon her high mountains, and God Himself her only wall.

The interest of this Vision is therefore not only historical. For ourselves it has an abiding doctrinal value. It is a lesson in the method of applying prophecy to the future. How much it is needed we must feel as we remember the readiness of men among ourselves to construct the Church of God upon the lines His own hand drew for our fathers, and to raise again the bulwarks behind which they sufficiently sheltered His shrine. Whether these ancient and sacred defences be dogmas or institutions, we have no right, God tells us, to cramp behind them His powers for the future. And the great men whom He raises to remind us of this, and to prevent by their ministry the timid measurements of the zealous but servile spirits who would confine everything to the exact letter of ancient Scripture—are they any less His angels to us than those ministering spirits whom Zechariah beheld preventing the narrow measures of the poor apprentice of his dream?

To the Third Vision there has been appended the only lyrical piece which breaks the prose narrative of the Visions. We have already seen that it is a piece of earlier date. Israel is addressed as still scattered to the four winds of heaven, and still inhabiting Babylon. While in Zechariah’s own oracles and visions Jehovah 291 has returned to Jerusalem, His return according to this piece is still future. There is nothing about the Temple: God’s holy dwelling from which He has roused Himself is Heaven. The piece was probably inserted by Zechariah himself: its lines are broken by what seems to be a piece of prose, in which the prophet asserts his mission, in words he twice uses elsewhere. But this is uncertain.

Ho, ho! Flee from the Land of the North

(oracle of Jehovah);

For as the four winds have I spread you abroad[819]

(oracle of Jehovah).

Ho! to Zion escape, thou inhabitress of Babel.[820]

For thus saith Jehovah of Hosts[821] to the nations that plunder you (for he that toucheth you toucheth the apple of His eye), that, lo! I am about to wave My hand over them, and they shall be plunder to their own servants, and ye shall know that Jehovah of Hosts hath sent me.

Sing out and rejoice, O daughter of Zion;

For, lo! I come, and will dwell in thy midst

(oracle of Jehovah).

And many nations shall join themselves to Jehovah

in that day,

And shall be to Him[822] a people.


And I will dwell in thy midst

(And thou shalt know that Jehovah of Hosts hath

sent me to thee).

And Jehovah will make Judah His heritage,

His portion shall be upon holy soil,

And make choice once more of Jerusalem.

Silence, all flesh, before Jehovah;[823]

For He hath roused Himself up from His holy



SATAN (Chap. iii.).

The next Visions deal with the moral condition of Israel and their standing before God. The Fourth is a judgment scene. The Angel of Jehovah, who is not to be distinguished from Jehovah Himself,[824] stands for judgment, and there appear before him Joshua the High Priest and the Satan or Adversary who has come to accuse him. Now those who are accused by the Satan—see next chapter of this volume upon the Angels of the Visions—are, according to Jewish belief, those who have been overtaken by misfortune. The people who are standing at God’s bar in the person of their High Priest still suffer from the adversity in which Haggai found them, and the continuance of which so disheartened them after the Temple had begun. The evil seasons and poor harvests tormented their hearts with the thought that the Satan still slandered them in the court of God. But Zechariah comforts them with the vision of the Satan rebuked. 293 Israel has indeed been sorely beset by calamity, a brand much burned, but now of God’s grace plucked from the fire. The Satan’s role is closed, and he disappears from the Vision.[825] Yet something remains: Israel is rescued, but not sanctified. The nation’s troubles are over: their uncleanness has still to be removed. Zechariah sees that the High Priest is clothed in filthy garments, while he stands before the Angel of Judgment. The Angel orders his servants, those that stand before him,[826] to give him clean festal robes. And the prophet, breaking out in sympathy with what he sees, for the first time takes part in the Visions. Then I said, Let them also put a clean turban on his head—the turban being the headdress, in Ezekiel of the Prince of Israel, and in the Priestly Code of the High Priest.[827] This is done, and the national effect of his cleansing is explained to the High Priest. If he remains loyal to the law of Jehovah, he, the representative of Israel, shall have right of entry to Jehovah’s presence among the angels who stand there. But more, he and his colleagues the priests are a portent of the coming of the Messiah—the Servant of Jehovah, the Branch, as he has been called by many prophets.[828] A stone has already been set before Joshua, with seven eyes upon it. God will engrave it with 294 inscriptions, and on the same day take away the guilt of the land. Then shall be the peace upon which Zechariah loves to dwell.

And he showed me Joshua, the high priest, standing before the Angel of Jehovah, and the Satan[829] standing at his right hand to accuse him.[830] And Jehovah[831] said to the Satan: Jehovah rebuke thee, O Satan! Jehovah who makes choice of Jerusalem rebuke thee! Is not this a brand saved from the fire? But Joshua was clothed in foul garments while he stood before the Angel. And he—the Angel—answered and said to those who stood in his presence, Take the foul garments from off him (and he said to him, See, I have made thy guilt to pass away from thee),[832] and clothe him[833] in fresh clothing. And I said,[834] Let them put a clean turban[835] on his head. And they put the clean turban upon his head, and clothed 295 him with garments, the Angel of Jehovah standing up the while.[836] And the Angel of Jehovah certified unto Joshua, saying: Thus saith Jehovah of Hosts, If in My ways thou walkest, and if My charges thou keepest in charge, then thou also shall judge My house, and have charge of My courts, and I will give thee entry[837] among these who stand in My presence. Hearken now, O Joshua, high priest, thou and thy fellows who sit before thee are men of omen, that, lo! I am about to bring My servant, Branch. For see the stone which I have set before Joshua, one stone with seven eyes.[838] Lo, I will etch the engraving upon it (oracle of Jehovah), and I will wash away the guilt of that land in one day. In that day (oracle of Jehovah of Hosts) ye will invite one another in under vine and under fig-tree.

The theological significance of the Vision is as clear as its consequences in the subsequent theology and symbolism of Judaism. The uncleanness of Israel which infests their representative before God is not defined. Some[839] hold that it includes the guilt of 296 Israel’s idolatry. But they have to go back to Ezekiel for this, and we have seen that Zechariah nowhere mentions or feels the presence of idols among his people. The Vision itself supplies a better explanation. Joshua’s filthy garments are replaced by festal and official robes. He is warned to walk in the whole law of the Lord, ruling the Temple and guarding Jehovah’s court. The uncleanness was the opposite of all this. It was not ethical failure: covetousness, greed, immorality. It was, as Haggai protested, the neglect of the Temple, and of the whole worship of Jehovah. If this be now removed, in all fidelity to the law, the High Priest shall have access to God, and the Messiah will come. The High Priest himself shall not be the Messiah—this dogma is left to a later age to frame. But before God he will be as one of the angels, and himself and his faithful priesthood omens of the Messiah. We need not linger on the significance of this for the place of the priesthood in later Judaism. Note how the High Priest is already the religious representative of his people: their uncleanness is his; when he is pardoned and cleansed, the uncleanness of the land is purged away. In such a High Priest Christian theology has seen the prototype of Christ.

The stone is very difficult to explain. Some have thought of it as the foundation-stone of the Temple, which had already been employed as a symbol of the Messiah and which played so important a part in later Jewish symbolism.[840] Others prefer the top-stone of the Temple, mentioned in chap. iv. 7,[841] and others an altar or substitute for the ark.[842] Again, some take it to be a jewel, either on the breastplate of the High 297 Priest,[843] or upon the crown afterwards prepared for Zerubbabel.[844] To all of these there are objections. It is difficult to connect with the foundation-stone an engraving still to be made; neither the top-stone of the Temple, nor a jewel on the breastplate of the priest, nor a jewel on the king’s crown, could properly be said to be set before the High Priest. We must rather suppose that the stone is symbolic of the finished Temple.[845] The Temple is the full expression of God’s providence and care—His seven eyes. Upon it shall His will be engraved, and by its sacrifices the uncleanness of the land shall be taken away.



As the Fourth Vision unfolded the dignity and significance of the High Priest, so in the Fifth we find discovered the joint glory of himself and Zerubbabel, the civil head of Israel. And to this is appended a Word for Zerubbabel himself. In our present text this Word has become inserted in the middle of the Vision, vv. 6b-10a; in the translation which follows it has been removed to the end of the Vision, and the reasons for this will be found in the notes.

The Vision is of the great golden lamp which stood in the Temple. In the former Temple, light was supplied by ten several candlesticks.[846] But the Levitical Code ordained one seven-branched lamp, and such appears to have stood in the Temple built while 298 Zechariah was prophesying.[847] The lamp Zechariah sees has also seven branches, but differs in other respects, and especially in some curious fantastic details only possible in dream and symbol. Its seven lights were fed by seven pipes from a bowl or reservoir of oil which stood higher than themselves, and this was fed, either directly from two olive-trees which stood to the right and left of it, or, if ver. 12 be genuine, by two tubes which brought the oil from the trees. The seven lights are the seven eyes of Jehovah—if, as we ought, we run the second half of ver. 10 on to the first half of ver. 6. The pipes and reservoir are given no symbolic force; but the olive-trees which feed them are called the two sons of oil which stand before the Lord of all the earth. These can only be the two anointed heads of the community—Zerubbabel, the civil head, and Joshua, the religious head. Theirs was the equal and co-ordinate duty of sustaining the Temple, figured by the whole candelabrum, and ensuring the brightness of the sevenfold revelation. The Temple, that is to say, is nothing without the monarchy and the priesthood behind it; and these stand in the immediate presence of God. Therefore this Vision, which to the superficial eye might seem to be a glorification of the mere machinery of the Temple and its ritual, is rather to prove that the latter derive all their power from the national institutions which are behind them, from the two representatives of the people who in their turn stand before God Himself. The Temple so near completion will not of itself reveal God: let not the Jews put their trust in it, but in the life behind it. And for ourselves the lesson of the Vision is that which Christian theology 299 has been so slow to learn, that God’s revelation under the old covenant shone not directly through the material framework, but was mediated by the national life, whose chief men stood and grew fruitful in His presence.

One thing is very remarkable. The two sources of revelation are the King and the Priest. The Prophet is not mentioned beside them. Nothing could prove more emphatically the sense in Israel that prophecy was exhausted.

The appointment of so responsible a position for Zerubbabel demanded for him a special promise of grace. And therefore, as Joshua had his promise in the Fourth Vision, we find Zerubbabel’s appended to the Fifth. It is one of the great sayings of the Old Testament: there is none more spiritual and more comforting. Zerubbabel shall complete the Temple, and those who scoffed at its small beginnings in the day of small things shall frankly rejoice when they see him set the top-stone by plummet in its place. As the moral obstacles to the future were removed in the Fourth Vision by the vindication of Joshua and by his cleansing, so the political obstacles, all the hindrances described by the Book of Ezra in the building of the Temple, shall disappear. Before Zerubbabel the great mountain shall become a plain. And this, because he shall not work by his own strength, but the Spirit of Jehovah of Hosts shall do everything. Again we find that absence of expectation in human means, and that full trust in God’s own direct action, which characterise all the prophesying of Zechariah.

Then the angel who talked with me returned and roused me like a man roused out of his sleep. And he said to me, What seest thou? And I said, I see, and lo! a 300 candlestick all of gold, and its bowl upon the top of it, and its seven lamps on it, and seven[848] pipes to the lamps which are upon it. And two olive-trees stood over against it, one on the right of the bowl,[849] and one on the left. And I began[850] and said to the angel who talked with me,[851] What be these, my lord? And the angel who talked with me answered and said, Knowest thou not what these be? And I said, No, my lord! And he answered and said to me,[852] These seven are the eyes of Jehovah, which sweep through the whole earth. And I asked and said to him, What are these two olive-trees on the right of the candlestick and on its left? And again I asked and said to him, What are the two olive-branches which are beside the two golden tubes that pour forth the oil[853] from them?[854] And he said to me, Knowest thou not what these be? And I said, No, my lord! And he said, These are the two sons of oil which stand before the Lord of all the earth.

This is Jehovah’s Word to Zerubbabel, and it says:[855] Not by might, and not by force, but by My Spirit, saith 301 Jehovah of Hosts. What art thou, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel be thou level! And he[856] shall bring forth the top-stone with shoutings, Grace, grace to it![857] And the Word of Jehovah came to me, saying, The hands of Zerubbabel have founded this house, and his hands shall complete it, and thou shall know that Jehovah of Hosts hath sent me to you. For whoever hath despised the day of small things, they shall rejoice when they see the plummet[858] in the hand of Zerubbabel.


(Chap. v. 1–4).

The religious and political obstacles being now removed from the future of Israel, Zechariah in the next two Visions beholds the land purged of its crime and wickedness. These Visions are very simple, if somewhat after the ponderous fashion of Ezekiel.

The first of them is the Vision of the removal of the curse brought upon the land by its civic criminals, especially thieves and perjurers—the two forms which crime takes in a poor and rude community like the colony of the returned exiles. The prophet tells us he beheld a roll flying. He uses the ordinary Hebrew name for the rolls of skin or parchment upon which writing was set down. But the proportions of its colossal size—twenty cubits by ten—prove that it was not a cylindrical but an oblong shape which he saw. It consisted, therefore, of sheets laid on each other like 302 our books, and as our word “volume,” which originally meant, like his own term, a roll, means now an oblong article, we may use this in our translation. The volume is the record of the crime of the land, and Zechariah sees it flying from the land. But it is also the curse upon this crime, and so again he beholds it entering every thief’s and perjurer’s house and destroying it. Smend gives a possible explanation of this: “It appears that in ancient times curses were written on pieces of paper and sent down the wind into the houses”[859] of those against whom they were directed. But the figure seems rather to be of birds of prey.

And I turned and lifted my eyes and looked, and lo! a volume[860] flying. And he said unto me, What dost thou see? And I said, I see a volume flying, its length twenty cubits and its breadth ten. And he said unto me, This is the curse that is going out upon the face of all the land. For every thief is hereby purged away from hence,[861] and every perjurer is hereby purged away from hence. I have sent it forth—oracle of Jehovah of 303 Hosts—and it shall enter the thief’s house, and the house of him that hath sworn falsely by My name, and it shall roost[862] in the midst of his house and consume it, with its beams and its stones.[863]


(Chap. v. 5–11).

It is not enough that the curse fly from the land after destroying every criminal. The living principle of sin, the power of temptation, must be covered up and removed. This is the subject of the Seventh Vision.

The prophet sees an ephah, the largest vessel in use among the Jews, of more than seven gallons capacity, and round[864] like a barrel. Presently the leaden top is lifted, and the prophet sees a woman inside. This is Wickedness, feminine because she figures the power of temptation. She is thrust back into the barrel, the leaden lid is pushed down, and the whole carried off by two other female figures, winged like the strong, far-flying stork, into the land of Shin‛ar, “which at that time had the general significance of the counterpart of the Holy Land,”[865] and was the proper home of all that was evil.

And the angel of Jehovah who spake with me came forward[866] 304 and said to me, Lift now thine eyes and see what this is that comes forth. And I said, What is it? And he said, This is a bushel coming forth. And he said, This is their transgression[867] in all the land.[868] And behold! the round leaden top was lifted up, and lo![869] a woman sitting inside the bushel. And he said, This is the Wickedness, and he thrust her back into the bushel, and thrust the leaden disc upon the mouth of it. And I lifted mine eyes and looked, and lo! two women came forth with the wind in their wings, for they had wings like storks’ wings, and they bore the bushel betwixt earth and heaven. And I said to the angel that talked with me, Whither do they carry the bushel? And he said to me, To build it a house in the land of Shin‛ar, that it may be fixed and brought to rest there on a place of its own.[870]

We must not allow this curious imagery to hide from us its very spiritual teaching. If Zechariah is weighted in these Visions by the ponderous fashion of Ezekiel, he has also that prophet’s truly moral spirit. He is not contented with the ritual atonement for sin, nor with the legal punishment of crime. The living 305 power of sin must be banished from Israel; and this cannot be done by any efforts of men themselves, but by God’s action only, which is thorough and effectual. If the figures by which this is illustrated appear to us grotesque and heavy, let us remember how they would suit the imagination of the prophet’s own day. Let us lay to heart their eternally valid doctrine, that sin is not a formal curse, nor only expressed in certain social crimes, nor exhausted by the punishment of these, but, as a power of attraction and temptation to all men, it must be banished from the heart, and can be banished only by God.


WINDS (Chap. vi. 1–8).

As the series of Visions opened with one of the universal providence of God, so they close with another of the same. The First Vision had postponed God’s overthrow of the nations till His own time, and this the Last Vision now describes as begun, the religious and moral needs of Israel having meanwhile been met by the Visions which come between, and every obstacle to God’s action for the deliverance of His people being removed.

The prophet sees four chariots, with horses of different colour in each, coming out from between two mountains of brass. The horsemen of the First Vision were bringing in reports: these chariots are coming forth with their commissions from the presence of the Lord of all the earth. They are the four winds of heaven, servants of Him who maketh the winds His angels. They are destined for different quarters of the world. The prophet has not been admitted to the Presence, and does not know what exactly they 306 have been commissioned to do; that is to say, Zechariah is ignorant of the actual political processes by which the nations are to be overthrown and Israel glorified before them. But his Angel-interpreter tells him that the black horses go north, the white west, and the dappled south, while the horses of the fourth chariot, impatient because no direction is assigned to them, are ordered to roam up and down through the earth. It is striking that none are sent eastward.[871] This appears to mean that, in Zechariah’s day, no power oppressed or threatened Israel from that direction; but in the north there was the centre of the Persian Empire, to the south Egypt, still a possible master of the world, and to the west the new forces of Europe that in less than a generation were to prove themselves a match for Persia. The horses of the fourth chariot are therefore given the charge to exercise supervision upon the whole earth—unless in ver. 7 we should translate, not earth, but land, and understand a commission to patrol the land of Israel. The centre of the world’s power is in the north, and therefore the black horses, which are dispatched in that direction, are explicitly described as charged to bring God’s spirit, that is His anger or His power, to bear on that quarter of the world.

And once more[872] I lifted mine eyes and looked, and lo! four chariots coming forward from between two mountains, and the mountains were mountains of brass. In 307 the first chariot were brown horses, and in the second chariot black horses, and in the third chariot white horses, and in the fourth chariot dappled ...[873] horses. And I broke in and said to the angel who talked with me, What are these, my lord? And the angel answered and said to me, These be the four winds of heaven that come forth from presenting themselves before the Lord of all the earth.[874] That with the black horses goes forth to the land of the north, while the white go out west[875] (?), and the dappled go to the land of the south. And the ...[876] go forth and seek to go, to march up and down on the earth. And he said, Go, march up and down on the earth; and they marched up and down on the earth. And he called me and spake to me, saying, See they that go forth to the land of the north have brought my spirit to bear[877] on the land of the north.


KING OF ISRAEL (Chap. vi. 9–15).

The heathen being overthrown, Israel is free, and may have her king again. Therefore Zechariah is ordered—it would appear on the same day as that on which he received the Visions—to visit a certain deputation from the captivity in Babylon, Heldai, Tobiyah and Yedayah, at the house of Josiah the son of Zephaniah, where they have just arrived; and to 308 select from the gifts they have brought enough silver and gold to make circlets for a crown. The present text assigns this crown to Joshua, the high priest, but as we have already remarked, and will presently prove in the notes to the translation, the original text assigned it to Zerubbabel, the civil head of the community, and gave Joshua, the priest, a place at his right hand—the two to act in perfect concord with each other. The text has suffered some other injuries, which it is easy to amend; and the end of it has been broken off in the middle of a sentence.

And the Word of Jehovah came to me, saying: Take from the Gôlah,[878] from Heldai[879] and from Tobiyah and from Yeda‛yah; and do thou go on the same day, yea, go thou to the house of Yosiyahu, son of Ṣephanyah, whither they have arrived from Babylon.[880] And thou shall take silver and gold, and make a crown, and set it on the head of....[881] And say to him: Thus saith Jehovah of Hosts, Lo! a man called Branch; from his roots shall a branch 309come, and he shall build the Temple of Jehovah. Yea, he shall build Jehovah’s Temple,[882] and he shall wear the royal majesty and sit and rule upon his throne, and Joshua[883] shall be priest on his right hand,[884] and there will be a counsel of peace between the two of them.[885] And the crown shall be for Heldai[886] and Tobiyah and Yeda‛yah, and for the courtesy[887] of the son of Ṣephanyah, for a memorial in the Temple of Jehovah. And the far-away shall come and build at the Temple of Jehovah, and ye shall know that Jehovah of Hosts hath sent me to you; and it shall be if ye hearken lo the voice of Jehovah your God …[888]

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